How concerned are you about the Wuhan coronavirus, COVID-2019?

Mudassir Ali
Mar 03, 2020 05:18 PM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Mar 03, 2020 05:19 PM

Official numbers. Yes. That’s what I’m concerned about.

I found some worrying screenshots from China’s social media. The problem is more serious than reported.

“The new virus. It’s not that us doctors don’t want to let everyone know, we are afraid to let everyone know. Our superiors told us not to say it. But the issue is really much more serious than reported. A bunch of my coworkers already have the virus. I can’t say more here”

Reply: “Thank you”

“Yeah. Just tell everyone to be extra careful”

The caption about the pictures read: “The first picture is how many people were lining up at 10 am. How the f**k is there only 200 in Wuhan? The hospital is not taking us”

“I talked with a doctor on the frontlines in Wuhan yesterday to know about today’s progress. His hospital had a few people die today. A bunch of doctors are infected too now. Our manager cried.”

A few lines below: “RIght now, to confirm someone, we need to go through 5 levels of check, which takes a long time. Her hospital had 5 people die who are unconfirmed.”

This one is very long, but the summary is basically that the woman’s mother has been infected, but hospitals were full. The hospitals don’t want to confirm the infections so that when an infected person dies they don’t get counted into the data.

Mudassir Ali
- Mar 03, 2020 05:19 PM

Originally Answered: How concerned are you about the Wuhan coronavirus?

I’ve been following this virus with something akin to morbid curiosity for some weeks now. While I hesitate to say that I’m concerned… I do worry that there will be some large scale economic problems that follow.

If the reported figures are accurate, then it seems like our efforts to contain the virus are showing signs of success (currently sitting at 43k cases and 1k deaths). And I say this because the rate of new active cases is decreasing.

However, I do have concerns about this.. one of which relates to how quickly hospitals and doctors can handle new patients. Once a medical facility is at capacity, new potential patients are being turned away (according to social media). This leaves them uncounted, unaided, and out in public (relying on other people to help them (spread the virus further))…

While the rate of infected people is declining, the death rate of the virus is continuing to increase… which suggests that we’re not capturing all instances of infection or that we’re our methods of collecting data is off / misleading.

The second concern relates to the very often reported mortality rate of 2% to 2.5%. If this were true, I’d expect to see that, of the people that had the virus, 2% passed away, with the remaining 98% recovering. However, the closed cases rate indicates that 81% recover and 19% succumb to the virus. I’m not sure if a different strategy is used to calculate the mortality rate, but .. as far as I know, it doesn’t make sense to include all known cases of people who currently have the virus with those who die from it. We need to know, once the virus has run its course, how many people survive.

I worry when reading quotes like this one, because it seems like this is precisely how they’ve estimated the mortality rate:

At present, it is tempting to estimate the case fatality rate by dividing the number of known deaths by the number of confirmed cases. The resulting number, however, does not represent the true case fatality rate and might be off by orders of magnitude

This make me wonder why it’s tempting to incorrectly calculate the mortality rate. What motivation/interest would cause the writer to state that they’d want to display a mortality rate much lower that an accurate figure? Preventing a public panic may be a factor here, but surely we’d want people to be appropriately concerned about the risks we face.

Additionally, reports I’ve seen from morgues and crematoriums suggest that a greater number of people are dying from the virus than is being listed on official websites. If these individual businesses are reporting a higher than expected upturn in deaths, then the overall reported figures should be correspondingly higher.

While the accuracy of these claims is debatable, and there are other somewhat plausible explanations, emissions (such as those produced by crematoriums) are extremely elevated. And, it may help to clarify this with figures to explain how claims of 50,000 deaths may be possible:

Current SO₂ levels are extremely elevated, at 1700ug/m^3, where 80ug/m^3 is considered dangerously high.

Similarly, the incubation period we’ve been told has been a fairly static 2 – 14 days, often reported to be 6.4 days (as a mean figure). However, one study suggests an incubation period as large as 24 days. While this is not widely advertised, it’s potentially due to the study not being peer reviewed (yet). This is troubling because people are typically quarantined for 14 days, potentially releasing them while they are contagious. There have already been instances of this occurring; which may be a sign that other incidents haven’t been reported.

I suspect that, while still a global health concern, a 2% mortality rate is somewhat manageable. If this figure should read something around 19%.. then it’s a far more worrying prospect. When coupled with a long incubation period where it can be transmitted despite people not showing symptoms, and the chance of it being transferred through fecal matter and small air-borne particles (from coughing), we’re looking at a serious problem.

China has performed well by closing down businesses and schools to help quarantine the virus. But this cannot continue without serious economic risks worldwide. We’re already seeing China asking for overseas businesses to resume trade, and they’re starting to send employees back to work. We’re treading a grey line between our economic stability and our physical health… at a time when the virus is still active and spreading. The question really revolves around where that line sits; if it’s within the economic stability route, the physical health route, or juxtaposed between the two… meaning, there’s a chance that we can’t avoid this turning into a big problem regardless of how we handle it.

A potential problem is that China brought in overseas workers to help with their new year festivities. These temporary employees are being asked to return to work, and will soon be sent home to their respective countries. The risk of infection spreading is reasonably large; depending on quarantine procedures in their countries and the incubation period of the virus.

While the following may also be false information, there have been incidents of news stations and websites displaying much larger figures for the coronavirus… with current active cases being as high as 250,000. While this figure seems plausible if we accept the worst case scenario of the figures above, I hesitate to accept that a government could willingly hide something like this; primarily because this speed of transmission would very quickly get out of control and expose the lie. Granted, it’s happened in the past (specifically with China), but I don’t like the idea of them willingly making the same mistake twice.

I suspect that the virus is a larger problem than is being reported, but the extent of this is debatable…

Transmission and mortality rates aside, the biggest problem we’re going to face is with our economy. If China falters, then the rest of the world is going to suffer too. What I’m most concerned about are the large industries that rely on trade with China, and the impact on our economies if they can’t source alternative (financially viable) goods and resources… If China doesn’t get back up and running soon, then we could face some dire economic hardships (worldwide).

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